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Erdogan says Israeli president to visit Turkey next month


ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Israel’s president, Isaac Herzog, is expected to visit Turkey next month, the Turkish president has said, as the two countries move to heal rifts.

In an interview with private NTV broadcaster late Wednesday, Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his Israeli counterpart would visit in the first half of February.

“With this visit, a new era can begin in the Israeli and Turkish relationship,” Erdogan said.

Ties between Turkey and Israel — once close regional allies — have frayed under Erdogan, who is an outspoken critic of Israel’s policies toward the Palestinians.

The countries withdrew their ambassadors in 2010 after Israeli forces stormed a Gaza-bound flotilla carrying humanitarian aid for the Palestinians that broke an Israeli blockade. The incident resulted in the deaths of nine Turkish activists.

Relations broke down again in 2018, after Turkey, angered by the U.S. moving its embassy to Jerusalem, once more recalled its ambassador from Israel, prompting Israel to also recall its envoy.

The Turkish and Israeli presidents have spoken by phone since Herzog took office. Erdogan has also spoken to Prime Minister Naftali Bennett following the release of an Israeli couple who were arrested in Istanbul on suspicion of spying.

The steps toward a rapprochement come as Turkey has been trying to end its international isolation by normalizing its troubled ties with several countries of the region, including Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.

Erdogan also told NTV television that he would visit the UAE on Feb. 14.

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